Outdoor Swimming Is Fun But Is It Safe?

by Pool Builders on 07-19-2012 in Articles

When planning to swim in open waters it pays to meet other experienced swimmers and get their advice or, if possible, join a swimming or coaching group. Below are a few basic points to consider before going on an open waters swim:

Tell someone
Like with any outdoors expedition, it is always safer to let someone know where and when you are going. If possible bring a friend with you so they can monitor you from ashore and raise the alarm if anything goes wrong.

Temperature
Open waters temperature can be between 10 and 25C (50 - 77F), much colder than a swimming pool. This can make a considerable difference to how your body adapts, especially on very hot days.

Never jump into the water without acclimatising your body first. Enter the water slowly, wet your hands, face and chest before getting in fully. Allow your breathing to normalise and your body to get used to the water temperature before starting your swim.

Finding your way
In large expanses of open waters it can be difficult to navigate, as your line of sight is usually close to the water and points of reference are often away on the shore. Get into the habit of checking your direction regularly during swims, and pick highly visible, distinctive and fixed reference points (like large buildings, etc.).
Consult a map of the area before your swim to get a good 'mind view 'of your route and reference points.

Weather
Weather conditions can vary considerably between swims or even during the same swim in open waters. Some can be hazardous- for example wind can increase the size of waves and blow you off course, whilst sun can impede visibility and expose you to the risk of sunburn.

Always check the weather forecast before a swim and never swim if you are uncertain of your ability to cope with the conditions. If in doubt, stay out and come back another day!

Staying safe
Even experienced swimmers can experience the hazards of open waters, such as cramp, hypothermia, exhaustion, tiredness, anxiety and temporary confusion.

It is always best to take your swim in a group and, wherever possible, with boat support or monitoring from ashore.

If you are unsure of the route, weather conditions, or need to build up experience, stay close to the shore, as it is easier to make your way back to safety.

Check for currents, rocks or hidden hazards, and use local knowledge to avoid known danger spots.

Whilst in the water be aware at all times of potential hazards such as moving boats; try and keep away from them and always wear a bright swim hat. If unsure, try to make your presence known by waving your hands and shouting out, and remember you can be hard to spot.

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